• Women as global leaders in the UN and beyond

    As global leaders convene for the sixty-ninth session of the UN General Assembly in New York this week, it is important to recall the long and significant history of the role of women in the United Nations.

    On 29 January 1946 Ms. Frieda Dalen of Norway became the first woman delegate to address the UN General Assembly.

    From Eleanor Roosevelt to Frieda Dalen to Emma Watson, the women of the UN have long ensured that gender perspectives are reflected and that gender equality issues receive strong visibility.

    Ms. Dalen was an Alternate Delegate of Norway and a Rapporteur (appointed by an organization to report on the proceedings of its meetings) of the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. Dalen a teacher, addressed the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, held in London.

    Later Roosevelt would write, “I also want to mention Miss Frieda Dalen of Norway, rapporteur for our committee. This is an important position because, in the way you write a committee's report, you can do what we in America call "slanting the news." Just a little change in emphasis may give a false impression of the way the committee really felt. Considering the heated arguments that went on in our committee and the insistence on diverse formulas and words to express exact meanings, I thought Miss Dalen did a wonderful piece of work.”

    Discussion starters:

    1. Do women world leaders change our international relations?
    2. Would more women in positions of power bring different concerns to the table?
  • Some in US Congress still deny global climate change while many call for action now

    Leonardo DiCaprio addressed world leaders assembled for the United Nations Climate Summit, urging them to take action on global climate change.

    DiCaprio said, “My Friends, this body – perhaps more than any other gathering in human history – now faces that difficult task. You can make history ... or be vilified by it.”

    DiCaprio went on to say, “I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be. Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis, if we do not act together, we will surely perish.

    Now is our moment for action.”

    Discussion starters:

    1. After watching these two videos what challenges do people in the United States face in following DiCaprio’s call to action?
    2. Do you expect the US Congress to take the necessary actions?
  • UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson launches the HeForShe campaign

    UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson gave a wonderful speech at a special event for the HeForShe campaign, United Nations Headquarters last week.

    Waston announced the launching a campaign called “HeForShe,” saying that she is reaching out to work to end gender inequality.

    The HeForShe campaign will try to galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality. "If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled," she said.

    "If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are — we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom. 

    "I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too — reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves."

    Discussion starters:

    1. Is the right for human rights for women a mantle men and boys should shoulder?
    2. Does the United Nations have a role in fighting for a world in which our daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice?
  • Where, after all, does peace begin? UN International Day of Peace 2014

    Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. 
    The United Nations General Assembly declared the 21st of September as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
    Facebook and other social media were filled with event photos from #BeThePeace events around our global village. The above photo is from Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
    Above: A human peace sign is made on the Smith Co. courthouse square in downtown Tyler, Texas, following the Art of Peace Festival concert, celebrating the UN International Day of Peace, on Sunday, September 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman).
    In 1958 speech Eleanor Roosevelt delivered a speech titled “In Our Hands” on the tenth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Roosevelt asked, Where, after all, does peace begin? It begins "in small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
    Discussion starters:
    1. How did your community celebrate the International Day of Peace?
    2. What might the celebration of peace change across our global village?
  • 5 Things the US President wants the world to know about the U.S. Plan to Degrade and Destroy ISIL

    In a recent speech President Obama, "In a world where technology provides a small group of killers with the ability to do terrible harm, it is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.”

    According to the White House, these are the key points the President made today regarding ISIL and our strategy to defeat their forces:

    1. ISIL is threatening America and our allies.

    Our intelligence community has not yet detected specific plots from ISIL against our homeland, but they have repeatedly threatened our core interests, including our personnel, our embassies, our consulates, and our facilities in Iraq, Syria, and in the broader Middle East. "If left unchecked, they could pose a growing threat to the United States," he said.

    2. The U.S. continues to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL.

    The U.S. Air Force has conducted more than 160 airstrikes against ISIL, successfully protecting our personnel and facilities, killing ISIL fighters, and giving space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. “They’ve helped our partners on the ground break ISIL sieges; helped rescue civilians cornered on a mountain; helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” the President said.

    3. American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.

    "As your Commander-in-Chief, I will not commit you, and the rest of our Armed Forces, to fighting another ground war in Iraq," the President told servicemembers. Along with our airstrikes, U.S. forces will train, equip, advise, and assist local partners on the ground "so that they can secure their own countries’ futures."

    4. This is not and will not be America's fight alone.

    The U.S. will lead a broad coalition of countries who have a stake in this fight. France and the UK are already flying with us over Iraq, and other countries have committed to join this effort. Saudi Arabia has agreed to host American efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces. Australia and Canada are going to send military advisors to Iraq, while Germany is sending paratroopers to help offer training.  Arab nations have agreed to strengthen their support for Iraq’s new government, a key ally in our strategy to defeat ISIL. 

    International partners will help us cut off ISIL funding, gather intelligence, and prevent foreign fighters from entering -- or leaving -- the Middle East. And  nearly 30 nations have joined American humanitarian relief to help civilians, including Sunni, Shia, Christian, Yezidi, or other religious minorities, that ISIL has driven from their homes. 

    5. Congress should provide the authorities and resources the U.S. military needs to succeed.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Should the US Congress support the President’s military operations with the necessary resources to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters?
    2. Do you expect the President and Congress to work together and show a united front regarding ISIL?
  • Humans of New York (HONY) promotes awareness of UN's millennium development goals

    By far, my favorite photo blog is Humans of New York (HONY). HONY is one of the primary reasons I open Facebook each day. Brandon Stanton has been doing brilliant work sharing stunning photography of real people of New York, Austin, San Francisco, and beyond along with vibrant and telling pieces of their individual stories for several years now.

    Above: "My father was very simple, but everyone respected him. The former president of India came to his funeral, even though we weren't a wealthy or powerful family. Everyone saw my father as a peacemaker. Whenever there was a fight, he'd put himself in the middle and beg for it to stop. Once there were two groups of men fighting, and my father ran over to break up the fight. Someone threw a stone and it accidentally hit my father in the head. He was so respected, that as soon as the stone hit him, everyone went calm." (New Delhi, India)

    In recent weeks, Stanton has taken his blog on tour, visiting 11 countries in 50 days in partnership with the United Nations to raise awareness of the millennium development goals (click here for the MGDs).

    Brandon has an uncanny gift for connection.  He is able to visit with and then share the profound inner thoughts and stories of those he meets. As one reads/views his blog it is obvious that everyone has a story to tell and something to share. Brandon’s work in Iraq, Jordan, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Ukraine, and India gives us a real sense of our shared humanity. We are far more alike than different and far more connected that we typically understand.

    Stanton’s work is often uplifting and very emotional.

    Above: "I'm not a politician. All I can do is to pray the bad things move away from us." (Juba, South Sudan)

    Stanton’s blog is followed by millions of people around our global village thus his photos and stories are helping the United Nations reach a new and broader audience.

    According to the Guardian the UN adviser to the secretary general’s MDG advocacy group, Gabo Arora, coordinated the tour with Stanton. Arora said the aim was to make the MDGs more accessible and inspire action before 2015 deadline. “We’ve been joking that the MDGs are cool again, or if they were never cool, they are now,” Arora said, “For us, this is a new way of getting the message out there. 

    Discussion starters:

    1. Does Stanton’s work bring us closer together as a global village?
    2. Do you agree with the UN’s use of Stanton’s blog to promote global awareness of the MDGs?
  • “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”

    In an address to the nation last night, President Obama detailed a comprehensive strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL.”

    President Obama said, "We can't erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge."

    Along with a “broad coalition of partners” joining us, the President a four part US strategy to defeat ISIL:

    1. A systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL:

    “Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense.  Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.  That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.  This is a core principle of my presidency:  If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

    2. Increased support to forces fighting ISIL on the ground:

    “In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces.  Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq.  As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.  But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.  We’ll also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.”

    “Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition.  Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters.  In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people -- a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost.  Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”

    3. Drawing on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks:

    “Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East.  And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.” 

    4. Providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians displaced by ISIL:

    This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities.  We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Are these steps the United States should take against ISIL?
    2. Would you have suggested a different course of action against ISIL?
  • Forever free: International Literacy Day

    After escaping from slavery, Frederick Douglass was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a reformer, writer, and statesman. Douglass wrote, “once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established 8 September as International Literacy Day in 1965 to focus attention on literacy around the world (click here for more).

    Former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan said, “literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection.”

    Literacy empowers people.

    Being able to read (and write) plays a critical role in an individual’s understanding of and participation in the creation of a peaceful and prosperous global village. 

    Discussion starters:

    1. Is a basic education properly included as a human right?
    2. How might education change people involved in and living with Isis in Iraq?
  • Bank accounts for the poor - a human right?

    There are just over 7 billion people in our global village and at present 2.5 billion adults do not have access to a bank account (click here for more).

    International political economists often argue that macro-economic stability is an essential pre-condition for stability and peace.

    The large numbers of people in some states who do not have access to basic banking simply cannot be considered separate from the structural, social, and human aspects of development. Without access to basic banking many adults are left out of the great global economic system. They have little or no opportunity for advancement and basic economic security.

    NGOs, like Kiva.org, are working to provide basic banking to those who are in need. 

    Discussion starters:

    1. Should we include access to basic banking as a human right?
    2. Do we run a significant security risk by ignoring those who do not have access to a bank account?
  • President Obama to detail Isis strategy

    The United States aerial attacks against Islamic State militants in Iraq has now increased to more than 140 air strikes hitting an expanding range of locations.

    On Wednesday of this week, President Obama will announce a new US "game plan" for an offensive against Islamic State (Isis).  Isis has publicly beheaded two Americans and threatens the foundations in Iraq and Syria.  

    Polls show that a majority of Americans back the President’s air strikes against Isis.

    Discussion starters:

    1. If you were to advise the US President on Isis would you suggest a strategy to build a regional alliance to contain and ultimately reverse the spread of Isis?
    2. Would you suggest American troops be deployed to contain Isis?
  • Immappancy: How does insufficient geographical knowledge shape global relations?

    Discussion starters:

    1. Does this map surprise you?

    2. What might the implications be for insufficient geographical knowledge on relations among people of our global village?